, January 2008
Sylvia -- In the early days of the LP, I played many many times selections from Leo Delibes' classical ballet "Sylvia."
When video tapes and then DVDs appeared, I looked forward for a long time to seeing this work whose marvelous music I had for so long enjoyed. Not long ago, a version appeared on a TDK DVD with choreography that degraded the score and actually got me angry. It featured the Ballet de l'Opera National de Paris, the cast of which was made to dance with nearly comic foot and other movements better suited to modern dance than classical ballet.
But now my faith is restored, because a gorgeous staging of "Sylvia" is available on an Opus Arte DVD. It is performed by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden under the baton of Graham Bond and choreographed by the nearly legendary Frederick Ashton. No gimmicks here; merely glorious playing, dancing, and stage design. These people, unlike the group on the earlier DVD, both love and respect the work.
The prima ballerina is Darcey Bussell as Sylvia, whose vow of chastity to the goddess Diana is broken when she falls in love with Aminta (Roberto Bolle). She is kidnapped by the evil Orion (Thiago Soares) in the second act, who is defeated by Aminta in the nearly plotless third act. Along the way is a score that is highlighted by thrilling music (especially the foresty music of Sylvia and the other huntresses of Diana), amusing (the Ethiopian Dance and Dance of the Slaves), and generally enchanting.
By use of the chapter menu, one can view four little sessions narrated by Bussell (quite interesting) and be introduced to the work before viewing by an illustrated synopsis. There are some very informative program notes, failing only in the track listing for the third act in which the numbers do not correspond to those on the disc itself. And I am glad to see that Opus Arte has continued to use black print on white pages for their text.
The running time of the ballet proper is 117 minutes. Do grab this one.